I’ve spent the day at Fresh Streams annual conference. Since this is a three day affair I’m wary of blogging on such a small part of the whole, beyond noting that I enjoyed it, but the day prompts some wider thoughts.
At this particular point in Baptist History, with the challenges BUGB faces, we need to encourage networking among Baptists and enthuse people to think about mission. Mainstream (now renamed Fresh Streams) is a significant part of that networking. Their annual conference draws representation from more churches than some association gatherings and through the regional networks and so on has an impact that is probably as great as an Association (which raises a number of controversial thoughts!). Because of their links outside the Baptist Union they connect with people and churches which are otherwise on the edge of Baptist life.
My background is in English charismatic evangelicalism; and my perceptions of the conference are filtered though that (both good and bad). But whatever you think about charismatics, we all need an ongoing experience of life with God. This is not a conference with stunningly excellent speakers (they’re not bad though) rather it is a conference that helps people hear from God, raises their aspirations and gives them vision for what might be. Fresh Streams isn’t everyone’s thing but gatherings that enthuse and encourage churches and ministers are important and the fact so many go suggests this conference meets a need.
Fresh Streams points to one of the questions the wider BUGB will need to answer in the months ahead. Networking, enthusing and developing a sense of movement do not need large infrastructures. But Baptist life needs more than that, most notably it needs people with specialist skills and knowledge who work in the background to support churches and ministers. Somehow we have to find ways of providing the later whilst encouraging more of the former.
I’ve no idea what questions and issues are being addressed by Fresh Streams at the moment but as I drove home I wondered what contribution could they make to the wider Union and how that could be facilitated.
Fresh Streams has a website here